The Blackberry 8130 Pearl is a departure for RIM, trading bulky for thin and stylish, clearly signaling a directional change for a company long associated with business and utilitarian functionality.
But don’t let the sleek and sexy form factor fool you! The 8130 is a true Blackberry, with its highly acclaimed “push” email and assortment of preloaded applications. The Pearl also features a much improved, multi-directional trackball which has been moved from the side of the device to a more convenient, central location on the face. Rounding out this latest Blackberry is a 2 megapixel camera with flash, side-loading microSD storage up to 2 gigabytes, all capable of running on a EVDO RevA high speed network.
The Pearl provides two customizable convenience keys; the left key default is for voice dialing, which is much better on this device than on many other phones I have used. Rather than fight with the voice recognition program, I found it easily recognized my commands. The right side convenience key default is for the camera. Once you are in camera mode, the trackball allows you to zoom in and out simply by rolling the ball with your thumb. The flash is automatic and very bright.
The 8130 is more like a “Pearl 2” than just a CDMA iteration. In fact, compared to the AT&T Wireless 8120, the 8130 has a better camera (2.0 megapixel camera with flash rather than a 1.3MP camera with no flash), easier access to external memory and comes pre-loaded on Verizon with VZNavigator, Verizons GPS software. If you choose not to pay $9.99 per month for the GPS service, the 8130 also comes with Google Maps preloaded, which can be used to get you where you want to go, albeit without the extra bells and whistles that you get with the paid service.
The 8130 also comes with AIM, Yahoo and MSN Messenger preloaded, and you can sign in and stay signed in to the instant messenger of your choice. The Pearl also works with Facebook, something I discovered and have found to be great fun. Both Facebook and the IM software move this device slightly away from its historic role as a raw business device and into an area where the rest of us live. Using the Pearl to communicate with friends is as easy as anything on the market.
I have been using my new Blackberry Pearl for a few weeks and its every bit as good as I had hoped it would be, and much faster than the AT&T Pearl which I used for a week prior. I can understand why Blackberry remains the choice of business professionals and government; it is genuinely easy to use and allows you to get what you want and do what you want without distraction or delay.
To achieve its slim form factor, Pearl uses Suretype, a modified Qwerty whereby there are two characters per key. While some folks have complained that Suretype is difficult to use, I found that it takes just a bit of practice. Learning Suretype is similar to learning T9 after being a “tap, tap, tapper”. However, the spacing of the keys are slightly cramped compared to the spaciousness of the Curve, to be sure, so this is something to consider if you are in the market for a smartphone. I have found that the contours of the individual buttons attempts to make up for their close proximity; if you just press the key you want it works fine. The Pearl also has the ability to “learn” words; the more you type the more it learns to recognize words you use.
In an ever growing field of touch interfaces, Blackberry remains resolute in its time-tested operating system. The RIM OS is designed to provide you access to options via the centrally located, durable trackball. Press the trackball and an option list pops up. Simply scroll to the action you want and press the trackball again.
The Pearl should appeal to folks who want the power of a Blackberry without the bulk. It is a good-looking device that celebrates its keyboard rather than make excuses for it.
There are many ways to personalize your Pearl. Numerous websites are dedicated to the Blackberry product line which offer free themes, wallpapers, ringtones, games and software. My favorite free applications is Viggo, a customizable RSS aggregator that is crazy easy to use and allows me lightening fast access to all the top stories in all the categories I am interested in, and even allows me to forward any article to anyone with just a couple clicks of the ever present trackball.
Because Blackberries in general do not display emails in the most user-friendly way, I did spend an additional $25.00 on a program that allows me to view emails the way they are meant to be seen. This program, and others like it, integrate seamlessly into the OS without you having to do anything, and allow you to customize fonts and colors. Loading this program was also quite simple as it was an over the air (OTA) download and therefore did not require cables, syncing and zip files.
Because the Pearl is an expensive smartphone, you will want to shop for an appropriate case. Keep in mind that Blackberry cases often contain a magnet woven into the fabric, which is designed to put the device in sleep mode to extend the length of a battery charge. I chose a wonderful holster from Bodyglove which includes a rotating clip that doubles as a stand.
If you want constant access to email and an operating system built proudly around a durable keypad, you will find the Pearl to be very effective and, dare I say, fun!
by Scot Cerullo